Stand behind yer sheriff Circulation: 175,667,493 Issue: 356 | 22nd day of Hiding, Y10
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Finding Dirk: Part One


by rotty_paws

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You know, most pets, petpets, and humans celebrate their birthday one day a year. I, quite frankly, do not; I get to celebrate twice. Or, at least this year I did. But it wasn’t a very happy birthday....

     “Wake up, Dirk, wake up!”

     I pushed Kaimond, my little yellow Lupe brother, off my chest and in the process fell off the bed. Great way to start the morning, right?

     “Kaimond, unless it is somehow Christmas in the middle of summer, I seriously doubt you have a good reason to wake me up at eight o’ clock in the morning,” I snapped, getting to my feet.

     Kaimond was, in truth, a little ball of sunshine. The yellow Lupe was energetic, good natured, and had his own ten year old warped sense of humor. He was, though, insanely annoying and, to put it bluntly, very, very dense.

     “No, silly!” he giggled, spinning in uneven circles and knocking my lamp off my dresser. “It's your birthday! Time to celebrate!”

     See my point? I knew for a fact that my birthday wasn’t for another month and three days. So, I humored the kid.

     “Dude, you have to listen to me,” I said calmly. “Today is not my birthday. So run along now and go get your head stuck in the staircase banister - again.”

     Kaimond looked at me as if I was the one who had to repeat pre-school and replied, “Don’t be a stupid-dupid,” and skipped off, leaving me a little bit amused.

     I combed my blue fur down (I’m a blue Lupe, if you happen to care) and walked out the room, heading downstairs. As soon as I stepped foot in our radio-active (only radiation poisoned when Gelo tried to cook) kitchen, I was attacked by a blur of purple and yellow feathers.

     “Alyn,” I gasped as the faerie Buzz wrapped her arms around my neck. “Why are you trying to murder me?”

     Alyn laughed her tinkling laugh and poked me in the nose.

     “Why would I try to kill you on your birthday?” she cried, flying off to her seat at the kitchen table.

     “It's not my birthday,” I protested. Was this some kind of joke? Everyone in the family knew I wouldn’t fall for such a flimsy prank. Alyn was really practical, so why would she go along with this madness?

     “Dirk, stop joking around,” Gelo, our owner, said cheerily from behind an issue of the Neopian Times. He put the paper down on the table and looked happily up at me, smiling widely. I noticed it didn’t reach his eyes, which were cold and almost unseeing. Strange.

     “I made breakfast,” he continued, “for you, the birthday boy! How does it feel to turn sixteen, sport?”

     I sighed, covering my face with my paw and letting my paw slide down my muzzle in exasperation.

     “I’m pretty sure it would feel awesome, if I actually was turning sixteen today, but I’m not.”

     Kaimond, who suddenly appeared from nowhere, laughed hysterically and plopped himself on a chair at the table, joining Alyn and Gelo.

     “We’re your family, sport,” Gelo replied. “You don’t think we’d know your own birthday? We even put up a banner for you!”

     Creepily, the entire family turned and pointed behind them to a green banner with blue letters at the same time.

     I suppose it read ‘Happy Birthday Dirk’ but I couldn’t really tell because the words were written upside down and backwards.

     “That’s great,” I muttered. This was seriously weirding me out. I felt strangely uneasy, and decided to stay standing up, as far away from Alyn, Kaimond, and Gelo as possible. I didn’t know why I felt this way.

     “What’s for breakfast?” I asked, trying to break the eerie silence and their bizarre wide smiles.

     “Oil, as usual for us, and some old boot for you,” Gelo replied, his grin reaching his ears. Alyn and Kaimond nodded their agreement simultaneously again. I swear I’d never seen Kaimond sit still for so long.

     “If this is a joke,” I finally snapped, “it's not funny.”

     “Funny? Hilarious! Ha haha hahaha!” the family said as one. My fur crawled. Something was wrong.

     “I’m going to go for a walk,” I said nervously, edging toward the foyer. “Celebrate my birthday with... others.”

     There was an everlasting silence, and then suddenly, the family’s smiles vanished, one by one. Alyn stood up, and walked towards me, her brow furrowed.

     “Wha-”

     Alyn grabbed my arms and pinned them behind my back with astounding speed. The force of the pin caused my knees to buckle, and I hit the floor, painfully.

     Kaimond walked forward and leaned down to my level.

     “I never liked you, you big fat meanie,” he said in am emotionless voice that did not belong to a ten year old. Words couldn’t find me. What I wanted to say, though, was, “Like cleaning up your diapers was a joy ride for me Tinkle Toes,” but Gelo interrupted my quest for my voice.

     “ALYN412, escort the captive to the basement and send him to headquarters,” Gelo droned, suddenly behind Kaimond.

     “Affirmative GELO056,” Alyn replied impassively, dragging me backwards. What the heck...? I struggled to free myself, but Alyn’s grip was like iron.

     “What’s going on? Help me!” I cried desperately.

     “ALYN412, halt!”

     Alyn mercifully stopped dragging my hindquarters over the wood floor and waited for (I cannot believe I’m saying this...) commands from Gelo.

     Or the human I had thought was Gelo.

     “I have a message from Shadowfeather.” Gelo loomed over me, tall and dangerous. I was only seconds away from something big, I could feel it. Surprisingly, I wasn’t panicking. I was calmly waiting for the next turn of events. What good would spazzing out be? Besides, these people weren’t the real thing; imposters, possibly robots.

     I looked up into Gelo’s impassive eyes, trying to look defiant. Suddenly, there was a hiss, and Gelo’s face split in half, opened up so his curly black hair was under his chin, and a little Neovision screen could be seen.

     Okay, definitely robots.

     “I always wondered where you went in your empty head,” I spat.

     Gelo didn’t reply. Alyn didn’t even tighten her grip on my wrists, though the Lupe gave me a sideways glare. I realized there was a flash of contempt behind his eyes. That could possibly mean he was the only one here who was real.

     The Neovision screen flickered on. I was greeted with the sight of a blue Grarrl in a tux, sitting at a huge oak desk, papers neatly stacked, folders lying in piles.

     His dark eyes brightened as they settled on me.

     “Oh, hello, Dirk,” the Grarrl, who I presumed as Shadowfeather, sneered, clasping his paws together. “It’s a pleasure to see you again! Happy birthday, by the way.” He chuckled darkly, his lips revealing sharpened fangs.

     There was a pause. Something about this guy was unnerving, but I felt like there was a tiny something in the back of my brain telling me to insult him for the joy of it. Whatever.

     “Okay, first of all, you seriously need to brush your teeth,” I snarled. “Secondly, I’ve never met you before; trust me, I’d remember that mole on your nose, and thirdly, it ain’t my birthday.”

     Shadowfeather narrowed his eyes, his jaw muscles clenching and unclenching. Ooh, I make big bad Grarrl boy mad.

     “Do you really have no inkling of who I am?” he hissed, looking at me strangely, piercingly.

     “Not a clue.”

     Shadowfeather’s eyes widened with a mixture of joy and surprise and grinned.

     “Excellent! Well, I must apologize for the sudden imprisonment you are about to experience. If the robots didn’t malfunction, you’d be able to live out your life peacefully.” He gave a great booming laugh.

     I scowled furiously; I seriously detested this cocky dude.

     “But, then again, you’d just be living a lie,” he added coldly.

     I froze at that; a lie? How was my life a lie? I had lived my days peacefully with my family, hung out my friends, and I was positive they hadn’t been robots until today. They felt like flesh and blood... but was that a lie? Was I being manipulated? That part of my brain was saying, loud and crystal clear, Yes genius.

     “Well, I must bid you farewell,” Shadowfeather said finally. “You were an admirable adversary, I will say that much. But your time had to come. No Neopian stands in my way. But, ha, you have no idea what I’m talking about. Take him away, boys.”

     “Who are you?” I demanded, losing my cool. My anger flared. “What do you mean my life is a lie? Who - am - I?!”

     Shadowfeather only smiled venomously, picked up a remote, and the screen went blank.

     As Gelo’s head reformed, I felt the blood pulse hotly through my veins. My head felt as if it was about to explode; pointless images were flashing behind my eyes, but I couldn’t connect two and two...

     Suddenly, I felt myself being dragged across the floor again. I opened my once tightly closed eyes, rearing for a fight. My heart beat swiftly against my chest.

     Do something, my brain willed. Fight....

     “Get... off... of... me!” I roared, something snapping inside my head. I thrust my arms up and away from ALYN412’s grip, smiling with satisfaction at my newfound freedom, rubbing my wrists to get the feeling back.

     Hold on – how did I do that...?

     Gelo let out a screech off rage and leapt at my exposed back.

To be continued...

 
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